LINCOLN — The first school in line was the last one left standing.
Derby (Kan.) High School offensive tackle Alex Conn committed on Monday to Nebraska, the program that extended Conn his first major scholarship offer months ago. Both Conn and Derby’s coach, Brandon Clark, agreed that gesture worked heavily in Nebraska’s favor, as did the trio of offensive line coach Greg Austin, running backs coach Ryan Held and head coach Scott Frost.
“He thinks Nebraska really cares about him, and that goes a long way with Alex,” Clark said.
But after a good trip to Oklahoma State, Conn needed to be sure. His last visit to NU’s campus — for the big recruiting barbecue last weekend — was also for his mom, Shelly. She had to like Lincoln, too.
“She loved it,” Conn said Monday after announcing his commitment. “She was a part of the decision.”
The “vibe” of the program — the comfort of coaches and players, the similarities to his own hometown of Derby in the suburbs of Wichita — was part of it. But Austin, who has become one of NU’s best recruiters, clinched it.
“Coach Austin, he doesn’t sell you a bunch of sunshine and rainbows,” Conn said. “He tells you, ‘I’m going to work with you and make you a better player.’ ”
The 6-foot-6, 280-pound Conn said he didn’t arrive at his decision until he was ready to go to bed Sunday night. That’s when he checked his gut feeling. It said Huskers, the program that first had a good gut feeling about Conn.
“I was extremely grateful to have received that offer,” Conn said. “The relationship has been great. Text, phone calls, FaceTime. Coach Austin seems like a great, great coach. He seems like a guy who knows what he’s doing, and he’ll push you to the limit and a little bit further.”
Conn becomes the fifth commit in Nebraska’s 2020 class, the second offensive tackle and the second from the weekend barbecue — following cornerback Tamon Lynum — that served as a recruiting tentpole for June.
Conn had visited Nebraska several times and picked the Huskers over Oklahoma State and Kansas, his other two finalists. He’s the third commit within the 500-mile radius, as well, where the Husker coaching staff hopes to land as many prospects as possible.
He has also played offensive line since he could put on pads. Clark said he’s undergone two growth spurts since entering Derby, a high school just south of Wichita that’s one of the state’s largest.
“He has great hips,” Clark said. “His footwork is phenomenal. You watch our agility drills, our quick feet drills, and he moves like our 5-foot-9 guys in his 6-6 frame. He’s just a natural athlete. He can really play low, and, at that size, a lot of 6-6 guys can’t play with good pad level, but he can.”
A consensus three-star tackle, Conn is ranked as the No. 57 tackle in the nation in the 247Sports composite.
He and national top-100 prospect Turner Corcoran project to a position that has little experienced depth behind juniors Brenden Jaimes and Matt Farniok. Fifth-year senior Christian Gaylord has long been a tackle, but after that three true freshmen — Matthew Anderson, Bryce Benhart and Jimmy Fritzsche — are most likely in line for playing time. Benhart, at 6-foot-9, 305 pounds, would appear to be the most physically ready.